Sunday September 15th 2019 Pastor Galen Zook Jeremiah 29:1,4-7 Never In Their Wildest Dreams Sometimes we end up in a situation in life that we never expected to find ourselves in. Perhaps it’s a job… More
Sunday August 18th 2019
Zachiah Zook, age 13
Good morning, everyone! My name is Zachiah Zook, and today, I will be sharing with you what we learned this week at Hampden United Methodist Church’s Vacation Bible School.
As you may know, this year’s theme was “Make a splash with Jesus!” so most of our activities included water. Even our Bible stories usually mentioned water!
So, I’ll start with day one. On Monday, we listened to the story of when Jesus and his disciples were caught in a huge storm while on a boat. The disciples were really scared, but Jesus was sleeping. They woke him up and asked, “Jesus, don’t you care about us?”
So he went up, and said “Quiet! Be still!” And the wind and waves obeyed him.
So maybe in scary situations, if it seems like he’s sleeping, all we have to do is talk to him and tell him about it, and ask for help. Jesus has a lot of power and he will use it for good.
Those who don’t know God’s power are afraid. So don’t be afraid and don’t worry.
Jesus has been watching over you all your life. So far, he’s done a pretty good job, right?
Bottom Line: Jesus is our protector.
On Tuesday, we listened to the story about when Jesus and his disciples were passing through Samaria. Sending his disciples to the nearest town, he sat down near a well. Eventually, a Samaritan woman came along and he asked her for a drink of water. It was unheard of, back then, for Jews to speak to Samaritans, for they usually did not like each other. The woman was so surprised and moved by his kindness and knowledge that she realized he was the Messiah.
Jesus cared about that woman at the well because he loves all of us no matter what. Even the outcasts and loners. Jesus wasn’t just kind to them- he was their friend. And He wants us to be kind to others too.
So the Bottom line is: Jesus loves us no matter what.
On Wednesday, we learned about the story of how Jesus walked on water!
Jesus’s disciples were in a boat one night. They had left Jesus on land praying. They had sailed pretty far away. Then, later that night, they saw Jesus – walking out to them on the surface of the water! The disciples were scared and thought he was a ghost!
But one of the disciples named Peter called out and said, “Jesus if that is you, ask me to join you.” And Jesus did, so Peter stepped out of the boat, and walked toward Jesus! Then, he looked at the waves, and wind, and began to feel scared. Before he knew it, he was sinking!
Jesus pulled him out, and they walked to the boat. All the disciples worshiped Him, saying, “You truly are the Son of God!”
We all want to do amazing things. And we can – with Jesus. Because Jesus is the most awesome and amazing person. And He loves us and is taking care of us.
Bottom Line: Amazing things happen when we trust in Jesus.
Lastly, in the story we learned on Thursday, some fishermen were fishing all night and hadn’t caught anything. Jesus saw them and asked them to try again. They did, and they caught so many fish that their boat started sinking! They were overwhelmed by Jesus. But Jesus told them: “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will be a fisher of men.”
So don’t be afraid to serve God, don’t delay, just dive in! Easing in will only take longer.
We can serve God with the talents he has given us, whether it’s singing in the choir or serving in the food pantry, thrift store, or even just showing his love by being kind.
Bottom Line: God has a purpose for our lives.
Sunday August 11th 2019
Pastor Galen Zook
Isaiah 1:16-20; Luke 12:32-40
Playing the Stock Market
Several years ago I became curious about the stock market, and so I decided to invest in a few stocks for my kids, just for the fun of it. I had about $60 that I was willing to lose if things went sour, so I bought three shares in three different companies that were each selling stocks for around $20 per share.
After purchasing those stocks, something interesting began to happen — I became interested in following the stock market! My ears perked up when the newscaster mentioned whether the Dow Jones or Nasdaq had risen or fallen that day, which was something that I had never paid attention to before. I would find myself occasionally googling the stock prices of those three companies to see whether my little investments were gaining or losing value.
One of the companies that I bought stock in was Southwest Airlines, and a few months after I purchased that stock I found myself flying on a Southwest airplane on the way to a conference. And while flying on that airplane I smiled to myself, knowing that in some small way I was helping my stock gain value.
I invested in Ford on behalf of my eldest daughter, and for several years after that, every time we would see a Ford on the road my daughter would proudly proclaim that that car had been produced by “her” company.
In other words, because of the little financial investment that I made, our family began to care about things that we had never cared about before. We began to care about financial indexes and stock prices and about the companies of which we were (a very tiny) part owners. We wanted to see them succeed, we celebrated when their stock prices rose and mourned when their stock prices dropped.
Because our money was there, our heart was there also.
Where Your Treasure Is…
In Luke 12:32-34, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”
And then he says this rather startling statement: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
It’s startling because in our society we tend to promote the opposite. One common saying in American society is, “Put your money where your mouth is.” In other words, if you believe in something, back it up with your actions — your time, money or resources.
We have the mindset that if you really care about something you should give towards that. Even in the Church, we implicitly say things like, “If you really care about Missions, you should support missionaries! If you care about the poor, you should give your money to help those who are less fortunate than you. If there’s a cause that is deeply on your heart, give financially to help that cause.”
But here in Luke 12:34, Jesus isn’t telling us to give to the things that we already care about. Jesus is essentially saying, if you want to care about something, then invest in it, and your heart will follow. If you invest in things here on this earth, then that’s where your mind will be oriented towards. But if you want your heart to be set on heaven, then put your treasure there.
Just like I began to care more about the financial well-being of the Ford Company and Southwest Airlines after I invested stock in them, so too will we begin to care more about the things of heaven, where God dwells and reigns, when we invest our time, talents, and treasures in things that are eternal.
…there your heart will be also
Now some of you might say, but wouldn’t that be disingenuous? Wouldn’t it be wrong to give my time, money, or resources to causes that I don’t believe in, or to organizations that I don’t care about?
But the question is not, what do you already care about? But rather, what do you want to care about? Not, where is your heart? But, where do you want your heart to be?
You see, if Jesus told us to spend our money on things that we care about already, most of us would spend it on things related to ourselves. Why? Because most of us care about ourselves. If you’re like me, you probably have a whole list of things you would buy if you had enough money.
But if I’m honest with myself, most of the things that I want are not really essential. Most of those things are luxury items that might provide temporary happiness, but in the end would probably end up getting shoved in a corner where they would collect dust, or become obsolete. Most of the time when I spend money on myself it provides temporary satisfaction, but it is not something that will last for eternity.
Treasures in Heaven
In contrast, Jesus wants us to spend our money on resources on things that will last, things that will have eternal value. And maybe those are not things that you already care about, but if you put your treasure there, then your heart will follow.
Do you want to care about foreign missions? Then find a missionary who ministering in a particular area of the world and support them! I promise you that you will begin to pray more fervently, care more deeply, and love the people of that country more passionately. Your ears will perk up when you hear news of events happening in the province where the missionary your support is working, you’ll begin to pay more attention to issues facing the particular people that missionary is serving.
Do you want to care more about the poor in our city? Then give your time, money, or resources to organizations working to help those in need, such as the Food Pantry that we host here at our church. Keep a box in your own pantry where you can collect canned goods that you can give away. Give to a family in your neighborhood who does not have enough food to eat. You’ll not only begin to care more deeply for individuals in your community, but you’ll begin to care more about policies and procedures that affect those who are marginalized and impoverished in our city.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Treasures on Earth
It’s actually really difficult to find really good, solid, safe and secure places to invest our money. Banks are pretty secure, but they give very little interest in return. Mutual funds are pretty solid, but it is possible for them to lose value. Stocks have the potential to return great dividends, but they can also be risky.
We can always store away our treasures in our homes, but then there’s the constant fear that it might get lost, stolen, or destroyed.
As a society we spend a lot of money trying to keep our treasures secure. Many times, the treasures that we hold so dearly are above and beyond what we need. We store things away in case we might need them some day. But so often they become worn out, obsolete, or destroyed by moths or mildew when we don’t use them. (I definitely learned this the hard way when I stored one of my favorite guitars in our basement for a whole year, and the drastic changes in temperature caused my guitar to warp beyond repair!)
But Jesus encourages his followers, rather than spending a lot of time worrying about how to keep our money and possessions safe and secure, instead of tearing down our barns to build bigger barns to store our excess food, to instead give our wealth away to those who are in need.
Writing in the 4th Century A.D., Archbishop of Constantinople John Chrysostom said it this way. He said that one should enjoy “luxury in moderation and [distribute] the rest to the stomachs of the poor.” Martin Luther King Jr. put it even more plainly when he said “Where can we store our goods?…We can store our surplus food free of charge in the shriveled stomachs of the millions of God’s children who go to bed hungry at night.”
When we do this — when we sell our possessions and give our alms to the poor, when we give our excess food to the hungry, we make purses that do not wear out, we store up unfailing treasures in heaven. And we never have to worry about our heavenly treasures getting lost, broken, stolen, or losing value.
And so this morning I want to challenge and encourage us to give our time, talents, and treasures to things that matter, to things that are eternal. Invest in things that will last forever. As it says in Isaiah, “Learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).
When we do this we will store up treasures in heaven. And where our treasures are, there our hearts will be also.
Sunday August 4th 2019
Pastor Galen Zook
Fresh and Clean
As I’ve been growing older, I’ve been learning to appreciate the simple, everyday pleasures in life. One of life’s simple pleasures is stepping out of a nice hot shower and drying off with a brand new, freshly laundered fluffy warm towel, and then slipping on your favorite shirt or pair of jeans that have come right out of the washer and dryer. You feel like a brand new person, like a Tide or Downy commercial, or like that Outkast song from the early 2000’s, “So fresh, so clean.”
But what if every time you got dressed, instead of peeling off your smelly, sweaty, dirty old clothing, you just pulled on your brand new clean clothing right over top of your old clothes? What if, rather than taking off your old clothes and bathing or showering you just kept piling on new clothes on top of the old? That would rather defeat the purpose of putting on new clean clothes, wouldn’t it? Not to mention it would be incredibly uncomfortable and unbearable to wear all those layers of clothing in this hot summer weather!
Before we can put on new clothes, we have to take our old clothes off and cast them aside, or there’s no point in putting on new clean clothes.
Out with the Old, In with the New
In Colossians 3, Paul and Timothy exhort the church in Colossae to cast aside all their dirty laundry — the evil deeds that were associated with their former lives, all those destructive tendencies they were inclined towards before they came to Christ — so they can put on the new clothing, the new life that Jesus has given them.
In verse 5, Paul and Timothy tell the Colossians to “put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desires, and greed” Col. 3:5), and in verse 8 they tell them to “get rid of all such things — anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language” (Col. 3:8) and “do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices” (Col. 3:9).
You see, when the Colossians chose to put their faith and hope and trust in Christ, they were made new. Paul and Timothy remind the Colossians that they “have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator” (Col. 3:9b-10).
The Colossians have been given brand new clean clothing to wear. They have been cleansed and forgiven of their past sins, and Jesus has made them so fresh and so clean.
But it seems like the Colossians are trying to put their dirty old smelly clothes back on! They’re trying to wear the new clean clothes that Jesus has given them on top of their old clothes. Maybe they think that the Christian life fits them pretty well, that praying to Jesus or going to church makes them look pretty good on the outside, and so they want to wear their new clothes. But the problem is that they haven’t really truly given up their old way of living — they haven’t been ready to cast aside their old clothing just yet.
Paul and Timothy want them to know that their new clothing — the new life that Jesus has given to them — is not meant to just cover up their old lives, to make them look better on the outside. No! Jesus wants to change them through and through, to make them completely over anew.
As one commentator has said, “For too long, we’ve called unbelievers to ‘invite Jesus into your life.’ [But] Jesus doesn’t want to be in your life. Your life’s a wreck. Jesus calls you into his life. And his life isn’t boring or purposeless or static. It’s wild and exhilarating and unpredictable.”
Paul and Timothy remind the Colossians that they haven’t just invited Jesus into their lives — instead, their lives are now in Christ! Their lives have been made completely new, they have died to their former selves, they have now been “raised with Christ (Col. 3:), and their lives are now “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).
And so Paul and Timothy challenge the Colossians to live like people who have been transformed by Christ, people whose lives are now in Christ. They challenge the Colossians to put to death everything that was associated with their former selves, everything that was unrighteous, all the bad patterns of behavior, all the practices they did that were destructive to themselves or to other people, all the wrong thoughts or evil words that caused others harm. They are to put all of that away, cast it all aside, and live into the new life that Jesus has given to them.
And just in case the Colossians don’t quite understand the severity of continuing down the path they were on, Paul and Timothy remind them that it is on “account of these [things] the wrath of God is coming” (Col. 3:6).
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like to think very much about the wrath of God. I’d prefer to think of God as a kindly older gentleman with a perpetual twinkle in his eye, someone who winks at my mischievousness, or who looks the other way when I tell a little lie or think a bad thought.
But Paul and Timothy don’t sugarcoat things for the Colossians. The things that the Colossians used to do were flat out wrong. They used to do things that were harmful to themselves and to other people.
Malice? That’s not an accident. Malice is doing something evil with the intention of causing harm. Slander? That’s specifically trying to ruin someone’s reputation. Abusive language? That’s language that’s obviously intended to hurt someone else.
But that’s how the Colossians used to live! And Paul and Timothy don’t want to see them go back to that way of living, so they use this shocking language of God’s wrath to wake them up to the reality of the path that they had been on.
Now, I don’t believe that Paul and Timothy want the Colossians to live in constant fear of God’s judgment. The Colossians have already been cleansed and forgiven of their sins, so they have nothing to worry about.
I think Paul and Timothy talk about God’s wrath because they want the Colossians to understand and remember the gravity of their situation before Christ, to remember what it was that they were rescued from. Paul and Timothy want the Colossians to remember this so they can completely get rid of and turn away from their old way of living, and live into the new life that God has for them.
A few verses further down in the chapter (in verse 12 and following), we see the new clothing that Paul and Timothy want the Colossians to put on. They tell them to put on the new clothes of “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Col. 3:12), to forgive each other (Col. 3:13), and “above all, clothe yourselves with love” (Col. 3:14).
Paul and Timothy don’t want the Colossians to just try to sprinkle a little compassion on top of their malice, or to do a little bit of kindness to balance out their slander or abusive language.
In fact, adding these godly traits to their former lives might make things even worse! Adding patience on top of greed? That brings up images of an evil mastermind waiting in his lair to take over the world. Evil villains can be patient, but that doesn’t make their greed any less problematic.
And so Paul and Timothy want the Colossians to completely toss aside their old destructive patterns in favor of these godly, Christlike traits. They want the Colossians to be people of peace, rather than people who bring harm. They want them to be people who speak words of life, rather than death, people who treat one another with love, rather than greed or evil desire.
The Colossians were at one time deserving of God’s anger, but now they have been forgiven, and so therefore they ought to treat everyone with kindness and love and compassion, rather than operating out of anger or wrath, or with malice. They have no right to look down on anyone else, nor should they let anyone else look down on them, because in Christ they have been made new.
As Paul and Timothy remind the Colossians, in the renewal that Jesus is bringing about, “there is no longer Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free. But Christ is all and in all!” (Col. 3:11). What an amazing thought!
This morning as we wrap up our 4-part series on the book of Colossians, I want to encourage us to remember that, like the Colossians, we too have been “raised with Christ.” Our old self has been stripped away, in Christ we have been offered new life.
Like the Colossians, it might be tempting to just try to slip the Christian life onto our old selves, to try to fit a little bit of Jesus into our lives or try to sprinkle a few kind words into our vocabulary every now and then, but go on living the way we’ve always lived.
But I want to encourage us to remember that in Christ we have been made new. We’ve been given brand new fresh clean clothing to wear.
So let’s toss aside the old clothing, the harmful behavior and destructive tendencies that we used to have. And let’s ask God to cleanse us anew. Let’s set our minds and hearts on things above, not on things of this earth (Col. 3:2), and let’s clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with each other and forgiving each other, just as the Lord has forgiven us.
And above all, let’s be a church that clothes ourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony, and let’s allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts (Col. 3:12-15). Amen!
Sunday July 28th 2019
Pastor Galen Zook
The Year of Living Biblically
Several years ago, New York Times Bestselling author A.J. Jacobs wrote a book entitled The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, in which he humorously documents his year-long experiment at trying to follow every single commandment in the Bible literally, even the most obscure and seemingly outlandish commandments tucked away in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
Jacobs, who grew up in a secular Jewish household and doesn’t necessarily believe in God (but doesn’t discount the possibility of a higher power), wanted to highlight the reality that even the most diehard fanatical followers of the Bible who say they take the Bible literally don’t usually follow the whole Bible, nor do they apply every single commandment in the Bible literally.
I’m only halfway through reading the book so I can’t tell you how it ends, but I can tell you that Jacobs’ quest brings him into contact with a wide range of people, from passionate and religious fundamentalists on the one hand who share his almost obsessively-compulsive approach to Biblical interpretation, to people who readily explain away most or all of the commands in the Bible (or even the whole Bible itself) on the other hand.
One gentleman, for example, offered to come to Jacobs’ house with a microscope and tweezers to examine every piece of clothing in his house in search of any hidden fibers that might violate the prohibition against mixing linen and wool found in Leviticus 19:19. Someone else taught him how to blow a shofar, a ram’s horn, in keeping with the commandment to blow a horn on the first day of every month, found in Lev. 23:24.
Other people, of course, scoffed at his experiment, and random passersby often called him Gandalf (from Lord of the Rings), since his experiment involved not trimming the corners of his beard (as instructed in Leviticus 19:27) and since he took to wearing long white flowing robes, in accordance with the encouragement to “always be clothed in white” found in Ecclesiastes 9:8.
Religious Extremism vs. Pluralism
Although A.J. Jacobs’ book falls under the category of humor, his book does raise the serious topic of the danger of religious fundamentalism. Even well-intentioned religious fervor, when taken to the extreme, can cause a lot of harm and violence.
On the other hand, does that mean that we should toss aside every commandment in the Bible and let anything go, as if it doesn’t matter?
The Situation in Colossae
Such is the situation that we encounter here in Colossians 2.
As we saw in Chapter 1, the people of Colossae were new believers in Christ. They had come from a wide variety of religious backgrounds, most of them non-Jewish. Paul and Timothy, the authors of this letter, have never met the Colossians in person, but they have heard that there are people who are trying to take them “captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).
These religious fundamentalists are trying to get the Colossians to follow every single letter of the law, from becoming circumcised and keeping the Jewish cultural dietary restrictions, to even following the man-made customs and traditions that had been added to the law, often called “the tradition of the elders.” On the other extreme, it seems that there are people who are trying to get them to worship angels and obsess over visions (Col. 2:18), and I’m sure others who were trying to tell them to disregard the law altogether.
In the midst of this whirlwind of religious fanaticism, what are the young Christians in Colossae to do? How can they sort out the truth from the falsehood, and how can they possibly determine how they are supposed to live their lives? How can they know which commands they have to follow, and which ones they can ignore? How can they stay balanced in the midst of all the craziness and conflicting opinions swirling around them?
Rooted and Established in Christ
Paul and Timothy cut straight through all of the chaos by encouraging the Colossians to stay rooted and established in Christ (Col. 2:7), to make Jesus Christ the center of their attention, their focus, their worship, and their devotion.
Paul and Timothy remind the Colossians that it is in Christ that “the whole fullness of the deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9), harkening back to their statement in chapter 1 that Jesus is the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).
Paul and Timothy remind the Colossians that in Christ they received a “spiritual circumcision” (Col. 2:11), which is even better than a physical circumcision.
And when they put their faith and trust in Christ, they were “buried with him in baptism, [and they] were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12).
Whereas they used to be “dead in trespasses” and sins, now they have been made “alive together with [Christ]” and they have been forgiven of all of their trespasses and sins (Col. 2:13).
Not only have their sins been forgiven, but the whole record of their wrongdoing and all of the demands of the law has been nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14). Jesus has “disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them” (Col. 2:15).
In other words, they shouldn’t let anyone condemn them or disqualify them for not keeping every single law and custom, because their hope, their identity, the assurance of their salvation is not in keeping every single aspect of the law, but in the love and the grace and the mercy of God, expressed ultimately through Christ’s death on the cross.
Rather than living their lives in constant fear on the one hand, trying to make sure that they are checking off all the right boxes, dotting all of their “i’s” and crossing all of their “t’s”, and rather than getting swept away by empty philosophies such as the worshiping of angels and obsessing over dreams and visions on the other hand, Paul and Timothy want the Colossians to focus their time and energy and attention on following and worshipping and being like Jesus, continuing to live their lives in him, being rooted and established in Christ.
Because in the end, Jesus is the best guide that we have, the best example that we have to follow. Jesus shows us not only who God is, but also who we are supposed to be.
Model, Method, Means
I like to say that Jesus is the Model, the Method, and the Means for how we ought to live our lives and for making this world a better place.
First of all, the Model. Imagine with me for a minute that everyone in the world sought to live their lives like Christ. Imagine that every religious fanatic and extremist out there, every religious fundamentalist, were to shift their time and attention to living like Christ. Imagine if they were kind to the marginalized and vulnerable. Imagine if they were nice to children. Imagine if they stood up for those who are oppressed and if they helped those who were in need.
And on the other hand, imagine if those in our society who have very few moral standards began to try to imitate Christ, if they gave up their loose living and sought to do good in this world? Imagine if those who were selfish began to live lives that were less focused on themselves and more focused on others, if those who commit crimes of violence stopped hurting others and began to help others instead?
Imagine how your workplace, your neighborhood, this community would be different if everyone was trying to follow Christ’s example and live like Jesus?
And now imagine with me that everyone in the world began to live out Jesus’s teachings, if we followed the Method that Jesus gave us in how we ought to live our lives. Imagine if each of us loved our enemies, and did good to those who harmed us. Imagine that we all treated others the way we want to be treated, and loved our neighbor (of every cultural background and ethnicity) as much as we love ourselves?
That would be the kind of world that I would want to live in, how about you?
But the reality is that trying to be good all on our own will only get us so far. And that’s why I say that Jesus is also the Means by which we should live our lives and seek to make the world a better place.
We need the power of the Holy Spirit, the love and the grace and the mercy of God expressed through Christ’s death on the cross. We need the healing and forgiveness that Jesus offers, we need our trespasses and sins to be put to death and we need to be made alive in Christ if we are to live lives that are pleasing and acceptable to God. We cannot do it on our own strength. We need Jesus himself in order to live the method he taught us and in order to follow the model he left for us.
Rooted and Established in Christ
And so this morning, like the Colossians, I want to invite us to stay rooted and established in Christ. Not to get swept away by the latest spiritual fads and philosophies on the one hand, nor to find our identity in how perfect or fastidiously we keep the law. Instead, let us look to Jesus as the Model, the Method, and the Means for how we live our lives. Let us continue to live our lives in him, and to hold fast to Christ, even in the midst of the chaos and confusion and all of the various thoughts and opinions swirling around us.
We who were dead in trespasses and sins, have been made alive together with him! And so let us stay rooted and established in him, and let’s allow everything else to fall into it’s proper perspective.
Sunday July 21st 2019
Pastor Galen Zook
Looking Just Like Mom
How many of you have ever been told that you look like your mom or dad or grandparent or another relative? I have a brother who is 5 years older than me, and when we were growing up, everywhere we went, people would point at him and say, “you look just like your dad.” My brother would grin and smile, and then they would look at me, and they would say, “and you look just like your mom!”
As a young boy who was trying to be tough and masculine, it was really frustrating that everyone thought I looked like my mom. I would have much preferred that people thought I looked like my dad! But still to this day, people say that I look just like my mom.
Some of you may not know one or both of your biological parents, but the reality is that even if you’ve never met them, you probably bear some resemblance to them. It’s part of what it means to be a child.
And it’s not just physical resemblance either. How many have caught yourself saying things to your children or grandchildren that your parents used to say to you? Perhaps there were words or phrases that your parents used to say that you swore you would never say to your children, but in a moment of frustration or anger, the words just came out of you. Our parents and grandparents and those who raised us live on through us whether we like it or not.
Jesus, the Image of The Invisible God
In Colossians 1:15, Paul and Timothy say that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God.” Jesus, the Son of God, looks just like God. In fact, Paul and Timothy say that in Christ, “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:19). What an amazing statement! All the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Christ.
Now, this doesn’t mean that Jesus physically resembled God, that if we could somehow discover what Jesus looked like, then we would physically know what God looks like. When Paul and Timothy say that Jesus was the “image of the invisible God,” they’re referring to Jesus’s character, his actions, his entire being, which shows us who God is.
Jesus, the Son of God, was and is God. In Jesus God took on flesh, and came down to dwell and to live among us, to show us who God is.
In John 14:9 Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
Therefore, if we want to know what God looks like, all we have to do is look at Jesus. Jesus is the clearest picture that we have of God.
Jesus not only tells us who God is. Jesus also helps us understand who we are.
New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has said,
If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus. If you want to know what it means to be human, look at Jesus. If you want to know what love is, look at Jesus. And go on looking until you’re not just a spectator, but part of the drama that has him as the central character. — N.T. Wright
Looking For God
You see, all throughout human history, people have been stumbling around trying to understand who God is, how the world was created, and the meaning and purpose of life.
As humans, we have come up with elaborate rituals and practices to try to connect with or appease the gods, to try to get the gods to bend to our will or to give us what we want. People thought that maybe if we offer this sacrifice, or maybe if we say these words, then perhaps God will be happy with us and will give us what we want.
Part of our attempt to get to know God is also an attempt to try to know ourselves as well, to try to make sense of the world, to try to figure out why we’re here.
There are a lot of things in the world that just don’t seem to make sense. Life seems so arbitrary sometimes. Some people do horrendous things yet live to a ripe old age, while innocent children die young.
Some people have so much money that they don’t know what to do with it, while other people starve to death.
Some people seem to always have good luck, while for other people, no matter what they do, it seems like the universe is against them.
And so throughout human history, people all throughout the world have used religion, science, and philosophy to try to make sense of the world, to figure out who God is, and who we are, and how we’re supposed to live in the world.
Then Came Jesus
And into the midst of this world that feels so arbitrary, where people are struggling to make sense of the world, to try to figure out who God is and how we’re supposed to live, into the midst of this world, God sent Jesus. Jesus, the image of the invisible God.
Jesus is the mirror image of God. Jesus is like an angled mirror, reflecting God to us. When we look at Jesus’s life, his teachings, his character, the way we lived his life, we see a direct reflection of God.
Not only that, but when we look at Jesus, when we truly see Jesus for who he is and was, everything else in this world makes more sense.
Paul and Timothy say that “in him all things in heaven and earth were created, things visible and invisible…all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16-17).
In other words, Jesus is the missing piece of the puzzle that helps us see the whole picture. Jesus is that one Christmas bulb that makes all of the other bulbs light up. He’s the piece of computer code that makes the rest of the program work. Jesus is the key or legend on the map that helps us understand what everything is and why it’s there.
We can look around at the pain and the injustice in this world, and we wonder “does God care?” But when we see Jesus hanging on the cross, we see that God does indeed care. On the cross, God’s perfect love and justice come together. On the cross God exposes the evil and injustice of the world and brings it all to a head. On the cross God deals with injustice by sacrificing himself for the sins of the whole world.
As Paul and Timothy say in verse 20, “through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20).
Friends, the mystery of God has been revealed to us through Jesus Christ! We no longer have to wander to and fro, trying to understand who God is, living in fear that God might be angry with us, trying to appease God or win God’s favor.
When we look at Jesus hanging on the cross, we see God’s unconditional love for us, and we see God’s mercy and grace that is freely offered to all.
We see that God knows our pain, that God understands our suffering. We can rest assured God is not content to sit back and watch injustices occur. Through the cross, Jesus demonstrates God’s ultimate love and justice and that God is actively working for good in our world, to bring an ultimate end to all pain and suffering and injustice. This is what we see when we look at Jesus.
But unfortunately, even a lot of Christians don’t know that much about Jesus. And many people in our world don’t know that Jesus is the image of the invisible God.
I end with this story:
Arthur Burns, a Jewish economist of great influence in Washington during the tenure of several Presidents, was once asked to pray at a gathering of evangelical politicians. Stunning his hosts, he prayed thus: “Lord, I pray that Jews would come to know Jesus Christ. And I pray that Buddhists would come to know Jesus Christ. And I pray that Muslims would come to know Jesus Christ.” And then, most stunning of all: “And Lord, I pray that Christians would come to know Jesus Christ.”
So let us get to know Jesus more deeply! Let us learn more about Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God. And then let us go out and proclaim the love and grace of God demonstrated through Jesus on the cross to a world that is desperately trying to make sense of it all.